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BT to test WebTV in Britain

Microsoft's WebTV Network chooses British Telecom to test WebTV in the United Kingdom.

Microsoft's WebTV Networks said today that it has chosen British Telecom to test WebTV in the United Kingdom.

The trial will begin later this month. As reported, WebTV has been expected to test its product in the UK. In October, NetChannel, which makes a set-top box for Net-surfing, launched its Internet TV service in the UK and began distributing it at stores such as Harrods. The UK is one of the world's most "Net literate" markets, so U.S. Internet companies are eager to expand into that region.

"The United Kingdom is at the forefront of See news analysis: 
Microsoft-WebTV effort not yet up to speed the transition from analog to digital TV," WebTV chief executive Steve Perlman said in a statement. "This trial will enable us to gain important insight into this key market."

Added John Swingewood, director of BT's Internet and multimedia services: "We are committed to bringing new multimedia services to the United Kingdom, and this trial--combining WebTV with BT Internet--is a very exciting development."

WebTV said it has sold about 300,000 units, exceeding in-house expectations. Last year, Microsoft bought WebTV in an effort to expand its software sales beyond PCs. Still, some analysts are concerned about the lack of a specific timetable for adding more enhancements, such as WebTV with WindowsCE or DSL (digital subscriber line) capabilities.

BT is the UK telecommunications giant that lost out to WorldCom in a bidding war for MCI.